ALT.NET Conf: Day 308 Oct 2007
Today was abbreviated with only two sessions this morning and then a combined closing session. I had a late start (again) this morning, and missed the opening comments (again). I know this makes me seem like the kinda guy who always sleeps in (and the guys I work with would definitely agree with that characterization) but I want to point out that a) I was very sleep deprived going into this weekend, and b) conferences like this are physically draining. There is so much mental engagement that it really does fatigue you physically. Really.
The first session I attended was about Mono. I haven't looked at Mono in years, and I was impressed with what I saw. The Mono Migration Analyzer app (MoMA) was really cool. It essentially inspects your .NET *.exe and *.dll files and identifies what calls used are not available on Mono. This is a great idea, and apparently Mono's compatibility was improved by the real world metrics collected through the tool.
I cut the session a bit short to catch up with my family, and when I returned the session had migrated next door to a discussion on why the MSDN magazine sucks and how to market the ALT.NET message. I don't read the MSDN magazine (but I will if someone sends me a free subscription), so I don't know if it sucks or not and didn't have much to add. However, I think its a bit premature to focus so much on online community building and marketing. I kinda like ALT.NET being undefinable and using guerilla marketing efforts to build awareness of its ambiguity. It just seems more authentic to me that way. Also, I don't see a message well defined enough to actively market. After all the current message is basically, "do what works and don't be afraid to look to other communities to see what works there".
The mid morning session was the assigned slot for my proposed "Dynamic Languages on the CLR" session. Last night Scott Bellware suggested that what folks would really benefit from was a real life Ruby on Rails demo using test first with RSpec, so I changed the focus of the session to "Ruby on Rails Demonstration". Unfortunately Scott Bellware bailed on me (he had a scheduling conflict) and I recruited Luke Melia to pair with me for the session. Scott Hanselman attended and he started a really good discussion before we started writing code. There seemed to be alot of folks who either tried Rails, or knew someone who tried Rails, and were let down by the experience. There was this perception that Rails is *so* cool that you don't have to understand what is going on under the hood. This is true for very simple, golden path apps; but very untrue for most real-world apps. Like anything in life, you get out of Rails what you put into it.
The Rails session seemed to go well and I had a couple folks thank me for showing them the approach Rails guys take to solve errors when coding. I really like live coding demonstrations where you don't go in with a scripted plan. For instance, The video of the Jamis Buck and Marcel Molina, Jr. session at the MountainWest RubyConf is by far the most downloaded session of the conference. I hope I continue to see more and more of those types of sessions at future conferences.
After that all conference attendees poured into one room and one by one we all made comments about what we got from the experience. This was incredibly positive and was a great way to close the conference. This conference wasn't so much about technology as it was focused on the individual. I was happy to be a part of it and I look forward to more gatherings and communications about the ALT.NET ideals, even if it is a big ball of mud at the moment. :)